Luc Viau's 1956 Dodge Royal Lancer Custom
(from Volume 21, Issue 249)

story by owner Luc Viau, photos by Michael B. Kelly


My fascination with cars started early on in my childhood, by growing up around family that had hot rods. Plus attending various racing events from carting to NASCAR to snowmobile races growing up in New England. You can say that I loved everything on wheels, and those roaring engines got my juices flowing. I would sketch and paint early on in life, eventually dabbling in arts.

I’ve been in and out of collecting classic cars several times in my life, and am currently back at it again....hopefully for good this time. Especially seeing as I’m fully retired now due to a cycling accident back in 2003. I was a long distance cyclist (yes, pedal bikes), until I was struck down by a garbage truck. I was in and out of hospitals and rehab for 6 years, and am presently still recovering, so I don’t have the ability and 100% strength to build nice street rods anymore or work on them completely. So I buy them restored already, and save myself a lot of money that way. Knowing that I was now retired after my cycling accident at the early age of 42, once I was able to move around I just couldn’t sit and do nothing. Once I knew the extent of my injuries, long term recovery and capabilities, I had to focus on what mattered most to me and enjoy the rest of my life. So I dived back into my art. Primarily being a mixed media artist I now plan on creating my fine art around my second love of cars.

Even though I love all cars, I am most definitely partial to Mopars. I currently have 20 classic Mopars in my collection, plus one late model Mopar. My favorite is the one Mike Kelly’s Cruise News selected in Daytona to feature this month. It is a 1956 Dodge Royal Lancer D-500 custom. I’ve appropriately named her “Violet”, and she is a world renowned Richard Zoochi custom.

Richard Zoochi has been building custom cars for over 50 years. He builds one a year, enters them in prestigious car shows in and around California, and wins prestigious awards for his fine creations. While he owned it this 1956 Dodge Royal Lancer had many articles written up about it in magazines and books. The car premiered at the 2000 Grand National Roadster Show in California, and was awarded the prestigious George Barris Kustom d’Elegance Award. It has also won the very first Manuel Arteche Memorial Award at the Sacramento Autorama, was in the Top 5 Customs at the Good Guys All American Get Together in Pleasanton, and received the Larry Watson Nostalgia Pick at the West Coast Kustoms Paso Robles 2000 car show.

Violet was hand built in 2000 by Richard Zoochi, and is a total one-off custom car powered by a stock 315 Hemi small block motor with a mild cam. The front suspension was reworked with dropped spindles from Fat Man Fabrications. The list of custom mods on this car is almost endless, but to start with the top is chopped 4-inches, and the drip rails hand formed on the car. The rear window is sunk into the package tray to give a flowing line, and all of the glass was custom cut once the body was so extensively altered. The hood was lengthened one inch to accommodate the custom hood grill and rear scoop, with the grill cavity being hand formed. The headlights were extended out four inches to simulate an early 50’s Studebaker look, while the headlights themselves are a Richard Zoochi trademark look consisting of ’56 Olds units with outside lips cut off. The rear quarter panels were extended 4-inches, and given custom openings for the taillights, which were hand built by Gene Winfield. The front and rear bumpers were extended and frenched, with the bolts shaved off to give them a clean look. Keeping with the smooth look, the door and trunk handles were also shaved. The elegant paint was applied by Marcos of Lucky 7 Auto in Northern California using PPG tones of violet and white, in a custom mix along with gold pearl.

I look forward to making her an even more road worthy car, and giving her as much attention as she warrants. My additions to date to make this custom sled a very street worthy ride include some rear axle and brake work done by Donnie Hancock, the addition of steel wheels with baby moon hubcaps, plus a set of Diamond Back wide white wall radial tires. My mechanic, Paul Grosso out of Stuart, has recently cleaned up the engine bay and repainted the top end of the engine, plus color matched the air cleaner right down to the gold pearl in the paint like the rest of the car itself. He has also replaced the original wiring harnesses with a new up to date unit for safety. My 1956 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer is such a pleasure to drive, gets a lot of attention out on the road and at car shows, and has won numerous awards since I purchased her. I feel quite honored and privileged to own it. -Luc Viau